Hundreds of digital marketing enthusiasts congregated in Toronto and Vancouver last week for BrainStation’s #SocialMediaTO and #SocialMediaYVR, panel discussions featuring social media experts across a diverse range of industries.
Panelists included experts from Greenhouse Juice Co., Herschel Supply Co., CBC, Shopify, Pinch Social, Brix Media Co,, Vancity Buzz, Saje Wellness and Postmark Brewing Co.
Nicole Kelly, Community Director at OMERS Ventures
Conner Galway, Co-Founder and Director at Junction YVR
Both campuses filled a room of 130+ people. As Conner put it, “no way that was happening 5 years ago!” It’s incredible to think that a panel of this nature wouldn’t have existed 10 years ago, and yet we learned that Millennials spend an average of 50 days a year on social media.
So, how do you leverage the power of social media? Our experts shared their advice.
Let’s start with the basics: How to get your first thousand followers. All of the panelists across Toronto and Vancouver emphasized the need to use your offline connections to build online relationships. According to Farhan Mohamed of Vancity Buzz, “don’t underestimate the power of your networks, that’s what social media has taught me.” Turn those closest to you into brand advocates and leverage their online followings and testimonials to kick start and grow your online presence.
Michelle from Pinch Social set the record straight: “Social media works. Invest time and money in it!” Today, Facebook is considered a paid channel. With so many types of targeting options, ads are a great tool for bringing new users into your funnel, which means you’ll need to create a budget for your social media efforts. Expanding to city or a new neighbourhood? Use geotargeting to build brand awareness. Looking to reach small business owners? Target them! According to Mikey Scott at Herschel Supply Co., “if you aren’t paying to be on Facebook, you shouldn’t on be there.”
“The social nature of social media needs to be respected”. Emma Knight of Greenhouse Juice Co. emphasized that she uses social media as a way to create a dialogue with the Greenhouse Juice Co. community. This means actively engaging with users, responding to questions in a timely manner, and turning complaints into brand love – for example, if someone tweets about a ‘sludge’ at the bottom of their juice, Emma can quickly assure them that it’s natural and no, the juice hasn’t gone bad.
“You have to be where your customers are.” With people spending so much time on mobile, the CBC acknowledged this and took their coverage to social media, allowing them to reach their audience more effectively. The same goes for customer service for Shopify and Herschel; people use social media as an outlet to make their voice heard, which means consistent monitoring of every channel.
“You can only tell people to watch @cbcdragon so many times before they unfollow you.” Dan Fricker, who heads up social at CBC, makes a great point. Social media should be used as a conversational tool; content needs to provide value and engage your audience versus trying to sell them something. Simply talking about your brand is not fostering a social community (this is particularly true on Twitter).
For Emma Knight, it’s about content marketing. She mixes up Greenhouse Juice Co. product content with interesting, non-branded content that provides value. A conversation doesn’t have to be directly related to your product to justify adding your voice if it engages your audience (jumping in on the #cometogether trend in Toronto, for example, worked wonders for many lifestyle brands across Canada.)
When it comes to determining the right social media channel, Liz from Shopify puts it bluntly: “You won’t really know unless you try.” Every brand’s voice is different, which means each will resonate differently on different platforms. Greenhouse Juice Co. and CBC, for example, are great fits for Snapchat, but each uses it for completely different content (lifestyle and behind-the-scenes versus breaking news coverage). According to Katie of Saje Wellness, regardless of the platform, the best and most important ways to understand it is to “make time to get on it and use it.”
Quick tip: What does a global brand like Shopify use to curate their social media content? Liz Bertorelli divulged their team made a recent switch to Sprinklr. Check it out!
Another great tip from Katie at Saje: “Social media is the cheapest market research you’ll ever find and that you can do from your bed.” Don’t just post and walk away – see what resonates! Social media allows you to connect to customers on an incredibly intimate level, which is why every brand should tap into channels as an opportunity to get to know what customers want (and don’t want!) In the words of Farhan, “what might be cool to you might not be cool for your audience. Figure out who it is who wants your stuff.”
“I never just publish. I educate. Dare to add something new to the conversation”. Caroline from Brix Media Co. recommends using social to tell your brand’s story, with the intention to always be providing value (particularly for B2B and service companies).
“Pull out your phone and create raw, honest, behind-the-scenes content”. According to Sunny, video, native upload is the number one piece of content on Facebook and has 2x the reach of regular content. When it comes to creating video content, people aren’t looking for you for your brand – they’re looking for your expertise in your niche.
Listen. Katie emphasizes the need to “move the needle with acts of good. Word of mouth impressions matter!”
For Postmark Brewing, user generated content is everything, and it’s important to give community members recognition. What’s more, 65-70% of Herschel Supply Co.’s Instagram content is user generated. Caroline recommends consistently activating your brand advocates; “don’t be afraid to ask people to spread your ideas.”
Speaking of engagement, Herschel shared a surprising yet effective Twitter tactic: “Herschel Supply Co. follows no one. But we engage with everyone. We over engage with them.”
A great tip from Caroline: Make a habit of repurposing social like you do your clothes. In other words, “think of every single way you can extend your content”. For example, if you’re going to invest time and money into a video, be sure to post it on YouTube (great for SEO), Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, a blog, and even your website homepage.
So there you have it. Brands have a heart and with that comes a soul, a personality, and a voice. Know your brand persona, work with influencers, create trust and be authentic.